Kaylen, Where Are You??

Here I am.
After weeks of non-stop fast-paced high activity at work, organizing an Adopt a Family with 8 strangers in a two-week period, leading and coordinating three volunteer events, planning Presents Day with my family and the usual taking care of a teen business...Presents Day came and went.

I had five glorious days off work...and spent approximately 2 of those days sleeping.
Yup, I got sick for the holidays-maybe just a little run down?
The worst Presents Day ever? Maybe...though I got everything I wanted.

I got the kid a few things on sale and he returned them to trade in for something bigger that he wanted...and got twice the amount I paid. Could the store really do anything if I told them, no, no, don't give him $100 for that, I only paid $45 online.

No, they can't help me at that point. It's not a website where I can return things (like a deal a day site), so it was either keep something he ended up not wanting (though he picked it out a month ago) or let the store take it back and resell it. The money went right back into their store anyway-he got store credit.

And now he's the proud owner of a beautiful new surround sound speaker system in his bedroom.
And I'd like to take a moment to apologize to my neighbors.

Pictures coming soon....

Presents Day in TEN Days!!

And guess how much shopping I've gotten done?
Not enough.

I actually went to a little art party (a benefit for a local non-profit) and some friends and I were having a conversation about how commercialized the holiday is and how we don't even enjoy it that much. It's stressful having to buy gifts for everyone in your family at one time, especially when you have people who are quite fortunate in life, or who you can never seem to find a good gift for and you feel like you're just wasting your money....it's just frustrating. We're not celebrating a religious occasion, we're celebrating our family being together-which is great-but can't we just call it what it is? It's Presents Day!

I LOVE giving gifts, don't get me wrong. A group of friends and I "adopted a family" for the holidays and I can't go to the store without looking at things I think they might like. It's easy to shop for a family who you know has very little, because you know they will appreciate anything and everything and that they really need it. Often times, I find myself buying some random thing for a person because I'm obligated to get them something and even if I can't find a good gift, I find something that is adequate. I think it would be more fun to purchase things throughout the year at times that fit both my budget and just happen to be a time when I find something that someone will really appreciate and enjoy.

My schedule this month has been ridiculous - This week is the worst. I have two volunteer projects this weekend, I'm meeting people all week to drop off their Adopt A Family gifts, I have a volunteer project leader appreciation party, I need to get the house cleaned for a party at my apt on Wednesday where we are wrapping the donated gifts, I have to get some cards ready to mail for my Love Letters project, I will probably have to work late one day, I have to get my son to the bowling alley to post-bowl (he was sick this morning and missed league bowling), I have to deliver the presents to the Adopt A Family home, have to shop for 6 people, get my haircut, clean my car, and then have to drive 3 hrs to go see the family. Crazy. I'm supposed to make homemade cookies (for the adopted family) and rice krispie treats (for us).

Crazy week ahead. And I have two books from the library to finish.
And it's ten days til Presents Day.

Brain Candy

I love Sudoku.
I like the normal sudoku, but this is one of my favorite pastimes:

I'm pretty sure it's helping my brain stay on top of things. I really do think I'm smarter because I can put together puzzles such as these.

I have a little electronic sudoku game that I play every night before bed - and if I'm on the phone with someone, chances are high that I'm playing this game at the same time. It helps me keep my multi-tasking skills in tip-top shape.

Raising a Lady

Just another reason to hate Walmart....

These are panties they are selling for little girls.

Is there anyway that this is NOT horrible?

This is worse than buying your young daughter those little cotton shorts that say HOT across her rear. Why would you want to attract attention to you pre-teen daughters bottom? That's disturbing.

And why would you want to buy your little girl panties that imply her private parts are somehow related to money?

This goes great with the Prostitot costumes that were available at Halloween.

FWD: Re: Re: Re: Re: Meaning of Christmas

This poem is making the rounds, it's a forwarded message that some people find very moving and very accurate of real life.
Below the first poem is an even better poem (which I helped write a tiny bit, but otherwise, the author is my friend from work).

>>> <> 12/5/2007 12:32 PM >>>


Poem by Sharon Steege

I don't know who they are
Saying I can't greet the crowd
The way that I want to
Can't say **CHRISTMAS* * out loud.

I walk into a business place
See things that I rather not see
But dare I not say **CHRISTMAS* *
And ask for a "holiday" tree.

What happened to freedom of speech
And living in the land of the free
How can they take my **CHRISTMAS* * money
But can't say **MERRY CHRISTMAS** to me.

Men and women have given their lives
So we could still go free
I wonder how they would feel

Come on AMERICA let's wake up
Don't let our freedom escape
If they get by with doing this
What else will they take.

This is starting to get out of hand,
And I've begun to keep track
Well I've just about had enough

I hope this gets all over the net
If we all stand united and take freedom back
'Twill be our best CHRISTMAS YET!

Merrry Christmas and Happy Birthday Jesus!

* PASS I ON! *

Note: For those who do not believe in Christmas...Just sit down, keep it
to yourself and enjoy your day off with pay....You all don't like
Christmas, but don't mind the money it puts in your pocket...

Wake Up!

By: Erin Dobin

The above poem is ridiculous,
I must say....
There is this select group of people
who always want their own way
They believe it's best
No room for the rest

They are for things like nation-wide Christmas,
the pledge of allegiance, and religion at school,
but I will tell you what really makes them uncool

They are splitting the nation with their open mouths,
they want everything they want, and have nothing to give,
especially when it comes to the single mother
who was forced to have that sixth kid

They want to keep their guns bullets and all
and do not want to get the call
that says that the worst has happened yet
their kid was shot at school by a dimwit, and all
they can think is "I'm going to sue, and how much can I get?"

If this group would stop and look around
they would see this nation falling to the ground
They are not for equality, ending racism, or the war
they are only for what is going to divide us more

Narrow-mindedness is not a good trait
please think more before sending messages that will seal our fate

You don't see other groups sending around mail
that describes how they feel, like they are in jail
Your kind wants to always silence others
who have different beliefs and preferences than
what you were taught by your Fathers and Mothers

I am a believer of this holiday season we call Christmas
but also understand that many people live here and we need to
respect their wishes and rights to celebrate as well
whether it be Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, or even Hell

We're all tired of the self-righteous beliefs you all tout
With us or against us becomes what it's all about
If you are truly believing in this, the spirit of giving
Start by tolerating the beliefs that others are living

Merry Christmas to you too!

My Future Plans

My ideal future home:

On the edge of a forest, overlooking the ocean, is a small two room house, some might call it a shack or a hut, I suppose.
It has a private bedroom, the rest is made up of an open kitchen and living room.

There's a small bathroom with a shower off the edge of the bedroom.
It's cool in the summer, but warm in the winter.

The neighbors are just a half a block or so away. Probably named something like Narita and Jose and they have 5 grown children and 12 grandchildren (a set of twins by their eldest daughter Marita), all of whom know me well enough to stop by and say hello every time they visit.

My backyard has a wonderful little garden, where I grow most of my own food - I'm eating mostly fresh fruit and fresh salads, and of course steamed broccoli.

I have a few cats, of course, one of whom is indoor only and is the cuddliest cat you ever met. I have a donkey-his name is Juan Valdez-who helps me carry my veggies to the market to sell to Raul, who runs a small marketplace in the town a mile away. I have a goat, who provides milk for making cheese and yogurt and for helping keep the grass trimmed.

Every other Friday night, I host a barbecue for the area regulars. We eat grilled chicken and drink margaritas and dance with flowers in our hair.

Once every other month, I have an American friend come stay with me for a week or so-their chance to get away from the rat race and the mess that is the America of the future.

I have a bike with a basket for my weekly trips to the larger city 3 miles away, where I get my mail and exchange my books at the local library. I spend the day in town helping at a free medical clinic that serves the children in the community. Sometimes I stay with some friends in the city to help out a second or third day.

Once every four months, I take a trip to America to visit my son, who hopefully has not gotten too sucked up in the capitalist lifestyle and hopefully he isn't working 70 hours a week to provide for a family that would prefer he work 38 and spend more time with them and not have as much materialistic goods. His wife is sweet, I helped him find her, of course. They have a very well-trained dog, which I can tolerate because it doesn't jump on me and somehow doesn't smell like a nasty wet dog all the time (like most dogs do).

It's a good life.

Just Thinking....

My observations for the day:

Once you have the initial thought that the cranberry/apple spice tea you are drinking looks like blood - there's no drinking the rest.

The men who use the restrooms on my floor have terrible eyesight or terrible aim, or a combo of both.

If you give a nice deep chest cough a few times when someone you don't want to sit next to on the bus is walking down the aisle, chances are better that you won't have to sit next to them. Like the woman who talks loudly non-stop on her phone the entire 20 minute ride, or the man who is afraid of human touch and fidgets the entire ride, trying to ensure that no part of him ever touches any part of you (although if you did sit near him, it's somewhat entertaining to shift a little now and again so you end up shoulder touching shoulder).

Eating 6 cheetos a day throughout the week is just as satisfying as eating 30 at one time.

The Swedish language is one of my least favorite. It used to be the Chinese accent-but nope, definitely the Swedish for now.

There really are people who believe that praying really REALLY hard will cure cancer.

When you are really in a hurry, electronics can sense it and will malfunction as much as possible without needing a tech called. They are like dogs who sense your fear and only growl and threaten to bite you to the point where you truly believe they will, but their owners are CERTAIN it's safe.

It's very selfish for people to drive stupid, as the three accidents that occured in my 7 mile commute home proved - instead of ten minutes, it took 40. Those people were really selfish, someones reckless driving made for a long commute home for a lot of people. Jerks.

Global warming sucks - it's really cold here right now, we're expecting a big storm this weekend.

Presents Day is only 26 days away. I can't believe it. I've done just a little bit of shopping, but am not too worried.

Q-tips are a necessary part of life. Along with a good ball cap, a friend you can call at any hour, a nice bed to sleep in and a friendly cat.

Happy Take-Over-The-Indians-Land Day!

This was what one of the bloggers I read had to say about being thankful. I like the randomness.

I'm thankful for Mangesh not hanging any weird stuff in our office. For the strict enforcement of my bus line's cellphone ban. For tabbed browsing. For the imaginary first down indicator. For the grilled cheese sandwiches at Amy's Bread in New York's Chelsea Market. And for the fact that my doctor said if I walk more, I don't have to join a gym.

Here's my own (though I'm not celebrating the american holiday of thanksgiving):
I'm thankful I have a job I love to go to (almost) everyday and that my manager is very reasonable and logical. For my thick and shiny hair. For my group of volunteer friends. For my beautiful cat, Ginger, being trained to be a lap cat (it was a hard battle to convince her it was a good thing). For my son being dedicated to his schoolwork enough that I don't have to harass him to value his education. For The Office, which provides TONS of laughs in my house every week. For washers and dryers. And for the fact that we will have a new president in a very short amount of time.

That's not an exhaustive list of course. I wouldn't possibly have the time to list them out, and yes, I recognize that I didn't list out all my family - this isn't to say I'm not thankful for them.

I think I'm going to start looking for a weekend babysitting job. I like kids now and again and I have a master plan to save every bit of money I get from an outside income and see what I can collect over the year. I was a bit inspired by this post by a blogger - She only makes $21K/yr but she increased her value by $12K last year by doing simple things like babysitting and house sitting and investing correctly. $12K in one year by doing simple things..that's an easy way to a down payment on a house!

And I don't typically have big plans every Friday or Saturday night, so why not line up three or four families and help out for their Night on the Town....and typically they would need someone at night and so the majority of the time, the munchkin will be asleep anyway so I can do what I would do at home - watch a movie or read a book-BUT I'd get paid.

Ugh, I should have started this last year! I could have had $12,000 extra dollars by now!! That's about 15 months of rent. Or a down-payment on a house. Or a nicer car (not that I don't like mine). Or 12000 rolls of wrapping paper from the Dollar Store.

I LOVE the Wiggles!!

I had NO idea why this boy band is so popular, but The Wiggles are a big hit...and now I know why!!

This is most definitely my favorite Wiggles song:

And who doesn't love the combo of The Wiggles and Snoop Dogg??

And another favorite (and a nice, short one):

Birthday Memories

Here's a fun game: Guess who said the following statements last weekend:

Singing a song to her child (and encouraging the child to dance to it): "Superman's a Ho"

In the middle of a game with her grandkids and daughters-we had to guess things that are made from Leather, this came up from someone (like my mom maybe) revealing the answers:"Think of sex....a leather WHIP!"

On the morning of his 15th birthday (too big of a hint?): "Grandma's hairbrush is stuck in my hair!"

wow...you know it was a fun birthday weekend with comments like that!!

My wonderful sister sang part of this song for us and made her daughter do the dance that goes along with it (I say part of the song because she never knows all the words to ANY song-aside from Devil Went Down to Georgia):
Soulja Boy Off In This Hoe
Watch Me Lean And Watch Me Rock
Super Man Dat Hoe
Then Watch Me Crank Dat Robocop
Super Fresh, Now Watch Me Jock
Jocking On Them Haterz Man
When I Do Dat Soulja Boy
I Lean To The Left And Crank Dat Dance
(Now You)
I'm Jocking On Yo ***** ***
And If We Get The Fightin
Then I'm Cocking On Your *****
You Catch Me At Yo Local Party
Yes I Crank It Everyday
Haterz Get Mad Cuz
"I Got Me Some Bathin Apes"

Yeah, and now that song will be stuck in your head all day, right? Me too. Catchy song.

Is music getting worse and worse? I think so too. Remember the old days when mothers sang lullabies and such? Not anymore....now we sing songs about "hos" and "jocking things." Rap artists are really just making up words and saying they mean something - and we're buying into it. I'm going to start making up words too! I'll keep you posted on what I come up with. The radio guys were talking about little girls' costumes for Halloween and described the style as "Prostitot" - I love that made up word! And it very accurately tells you exactly what it means, as opposed to the Superman song.

And I have no excuse for the sweet grandmother that my child has mentioning sex when the answer is "Whip." After a full 12 seconds of complete silence, we all laughed so hard that we nearly peed our pants. I think that the majority of us would have envisioned a bull whip or something along those lines...but not Andrew's grandmother!

And the last story, well, that involves the birthday boy, his shaggy hair and a round brush - and a very funny moment in time, but I won't embarrass him by telling his story...but OMG-he's hilarious. But just as a disclaimer - I too have issues with those round brushes - they are tricky!!

Grandma and the Kids

Someone is shrinking...

Happy Veterans Day

I have to work tomorrow. :(
How can I properly celebrate the veterans of the world if I'm distracted with excel sheets and databases and scheduling stuff??

I'll update on the birthday weekend later - The Amazing Race is on!

Holy Birthday Boy, Batman!!

It's my offspring's 15th birthday in 36 hours!!

We are off to visit the family up north to celebrate the big event. No big party planned - just hanging out with the family...bowling, playing games, lots of video games-you know, the normal fun-filled family events.

Jenny and I are going to power-scrap all day Friday while Andrew is off with Grandpa bowling and the niece and nephew are in school and Grandma is at work. I have two years of Christmas pictures to scrapbook, one camping trip, a visit to the dam, and lots of random photos. FUN!

I think Grandma is going to bake a cake this year...Andrew prefers triple chocolate covered with chocolate fudge frosting and with a chocolate filling, and maybe some chocolate sprinkles on top! He might be the only one eating it-we'll see how chocolaty Grandma can make it.

And - YAY - I have tomorrow off!! I have been swamped at work lately. My coworker is ill and has been out for about four weeks (minus three days he made it in during that time). I've been doing part of his job (and my own) and been coming home pretty exhausted most days. I think my brain is melting...it will be nice to have a three-day weekend. So we're headed up north tomorrow after I get off work - yes, we'll probably hit traffic here in town, but can we really rearrange our lives around when there will be traffic? Not much really - there's ALWAYS going to be traffic. It's just a three-hour drive, with an extra 30 min for traffic maximum-it's really not too bad. We'll have to head back mid-Saturday because there is an all-day bowling tournament on Sunday, an hour south of home - planning on doing a lot of driving this weekend! Al Gore would be sad (but doesn't he fly around in a private jet??).

Bowl Me Over!

Guess who is the master bowler of the family??

Not me-I have bad wrists!
But the beloved offspring got a new high score during his league bowling on Saturday.

sit down...prepare yourself.....
the new high score is:

He's on a league and so every Saturday morning at 9:00am we are at the bowling alley. It has been a VERY exciting month. He started out two months ago with a really low average of 112-two yrs ago when he was on a league, his average was about 135. He then got over 150 two weeks later, then it was in the 170's, then it was the 190's and NOW....he apparently is a 200 bowler.

Watch out Grandpa - you have some competition.

Best Parenting Quotes of the Month

My personal shining parenting moment of the month was when my son and I were talking about when we could celebrate his birthday. I have four volunteer projects this month (four?? is there a prize or something??) and he has a bowling tournament and my friend has a birthday party and it's the celebration-of-the-overtaking-of-the-Indians-day. There's a lot going on this month.
He doesn't want a party but we want to make the drive up to visit the family. This was our conversation:

Me: We could just go up around Thanksgiving and celebrate your birthday then.
Him: I don't' know...I'd rather not wait.
Me: So we could go between the weekends and celebrate both-one late, one a little early.
Him: Why can't we go on this date?
Me: I have a volunteer project.
Him: We could just cancel it.
Me: I don't think we have to cancel your birthday, we can find a time.
Him: [blank stare]
Me: ......what?
Him: Why would I suggest I cancel my birthday??
Me: Oh...the volunteer event...right...

And don't even talk to me about the time I flipped him off in the middle of a crowded restaurant (it was an ACCIDENT!!!). It's hard to be the adult ALL the time.

My work-friend has two boys under the age of 4, insane, I know. It's almost as if you're punishing yourself for something...

The quote of the week from her:

After a stressful morning of two rambunctious boys not listening to her as she rushed around trying to get them out of the house and to the daycare, they arrive to the same location they go to every morning and one of the boys decides he doesn't want to go inside.

Mom: C'mon, let's go inside.
Boy 1: Okay Momma.
Boy 2: No.
Mom: C'mon, get out of the car, it's time to go inside.
Boy 2: No!
Mom: Fine, me and Boy 1 are going inside. Watch out for the ghosts.
Boy 2: What ghosts?
Mom: The ones that will arrive soon while Boy 1 and I are inside.
Boy 2: Wait, I'm coming.

Nothing like scaring the holy terror out of your child to get them to listen. That's what having two children of such a young age will do to you.

Good Luck to Me!!!

I was driving in the middle-of-nowhere on my way to the Girl Scout Service Fair (as a representative from the volunteer agency) and I'm very carefully following my internet printed directions. I took Exit 2, then took a left than took the second right and ended up on what looked like a road that leads out into the edge-of-nowhere...a little residential road shaded on both sides by these big wonderful trees and up ahead about half a block is something in the middle of the road.

It had the sun reflecting off of it-very shiny and bright colored, and I debated on whether it was too big to drive over without it damaging my car. There was no one else on the road at the time, so I chose to dirve around it (I always remember the story of my sweet little Aunt Elsie who drove over a piece of wood of some sort which was a bit too big and it ruined the undercarriage of her van).

Very carefully, but not all that slow (I HATE being late) - I just barely drove around it - yeah, it was in the MIDDLE, so I couldn't give it a LOT of room. As I get right along side of it and try to peer out onto it, it TAKES FLIGHT!! And it's one of the biggest birds I've seen in a LONG time. Or maybe just one of the biggest birds I've seen that close up. And I swear it looked at me and smiled! :)

Isn't that a sign?? Good luck is upon me or something? How often do you come within 5 feet of a red-tailed hawk? Not often I would guess. And that's why I'm the luckiest person this week.
Yeah, the whole week! It's MY week.

How can you have a bad week when you're smiled upon by a hawk half the size of your car? (The wingspan is from 43 to 57 in.)

Keep Your Fingers Dry!!

There comes a time in your life when you just get a certain craving that must be met. Sometimes that craving involves Cheetos.

Cheetos are kinda funky (it's the extruded cornmeal taste) and every time I eat them, I'm never sure if I really like the taste or not...but sometimes...SOMETIMES-you just need to eat some Cheetos.
And so it was today at work.

My old officemate used to eat Cheetos at her desk. It was one of my first memories of her actually.
She was a mess - always slurping her fingers, typing in between bites, crunching as loud as humanly possible. It was nauseating. I don't think I ate Cheetos the entire 2.5 yrs we shared an office.

However, it IS possible to eat Cheetos without reverting into camping mode (the mode where you don't wash for days, smells no longer affect you, if the fork LOOKS clean-the fork IS clean, mode). There's a definite technique to it, it's very important....because Cheetos can take you instantly into the stone age for manners.

Most of the fake cheese from cheetos sticks to your fingers because of moisture. The key is to avoid the moisture. The extruded cornmeal bits are covered in orange dye - so you're going to have SOME oranginess about you, but it really can be contained...try, for the love of Kaylen, please try!!

My attack plan is to pick up each cheeto gently with two and only two and the same two fingers, just the ends of the fingers to put it in my mouth. Then I wipe those two fingers on a napkin. Almost all the cheese-like powder stuff will rub off. It's dry and if you aren't in a hurry, this works easily.

At the end of the half of a snack bag I had today at lunch (really, I can only handle so much extruded cornmeal at a time), I can rub the ends of those two fingers on the side of my soda (cherry coke please!) and get just enough moisture to clean off any leftover nasty orange dye.

Fun Facts About Cheeots:
**One billion bags are sold each year. (I think I've bought six)
**In Korea, they have strawberry flavored ones. They also have meat-flavored ones (though I didn't see them directly, I have heard of them).
**Peru supposedly offers hot-dog flavored ones (whatever that means).
**Cheetos are said to be yummy when dipped in guacamole - though I refuse to test this.
**Tom Straub, a restaurant proprietor in Algona, Iowa, is the proud owner of the “World’s Largest Cheeto.” Lucky man.

Books Galore

I haven't talked about the books I've read lately, not because I'm not reading (ha, as if!) and not because I haven't found any good ones to read lately. I just read too many to write about them all.

Here's a book not to read when you're unhappy: Machete season : the killers in Rwanda speak .
It might just push you over the edge.
It's a very depressing first-hand account of what the killers in the Rwandan genocide lived through. Lived through, as in they survived, which was luckier than most of the people in that country. An estimated 50,000 Tutsis were murdered in May and April of 1994. 50,000 people!! That's insane. It's a number beyond comprehension when you're talking about the number of people killed, mostly with machetes, for NO reason, by their neighbors, their friends, their family members in some cases. It's horrifying. A very sad book. It's the second I've read about Rwanda. I'm done with that country for now. I can't take it any more.

Another book, a much easier read, that I finished this month is The Post-Birthday World. It's one of those books that ask, What if I had made THIS choice instead of THAT one? It follows the main character through both scenarios - one in which she chose to follow a temptation and the other where she stuck with her feeling of what was right morally. The book goes through both scenarios, switching at each chapter. It was surprisingly easy to follow along and an easy read.

I started a book called Yes Man, and is one of the few books in my life that I couldn't finish. It was not only poorly written, it was a ridiculous storyline that was meant to be a real-life happening but is so absurd that I couldn't continue pretending that it was a plausible storyline.

I read Forgive Me, which was a fun read, but somehow I ended up back in Africa. I have no idea how I picked a novel out that involved killings in Africa at the same time I got a book about killers in Africa. Purely accidental - but at least I can move out of Africa now for good. Okay, really, who knows - I'll probably end up there in some innocent novel about a child growing up in New York, it just happens that I'm drawn to the continent. Maybe a sign for the future? Anyway, Forgive Me was a good book - very quick read and I would recommend it, though not to someone who can't stomach a few descriptive sections while in Africa.

I'm reading a book about a family from Haiti right now, Brother I'm Dying. It's good. It's no Kite Runner, but it's good.

Mo Money

I keep thinking about getting a second job. The kid is busier with friends, school, chatting online, video games, sitting for long periods of time doing nothing but listening to music. He doesn't need all my free time - I should make better use of it, eh?

The only problem with getting a second job is the timing. I can't work in the evenings - I have to be home for dinner and available to help with homework as needed.

So that leaves the weekends.

But not Saturday morning, cause the kid has to get to his bowling league by 9:00am and have a ride home about 11:30am. We go to a bowling alley a little south of us and found that it's mostly made up of people who live quite south of us who don't have a bowling alley in their small town. No carpooling here.

And two Sundays a month I have my regular volunteer projects, right in the middle of the day.

That leaves me with Friday evenings after 6:30pm, Saturdays after 11:45am and Sunday nights.

And I can't really start that schedule until after December, because I have 4 volunteer projects in October, 3 in November and 4 (5?) in December, in addition to traveling for my son's FIFTEENTH birthday to visit relatives, celebrating Thanks-For-The-Food-We're-Now-Taking-Over-Your-Land day, shopping for the holidays and then traveling again to see the family.

Not really a lot of time to make much money...and who wants the employee with a schedule like that?

I need to find a job where I can work at home anytime during the week. Then I can work around my regular job schedule, the kids schedule, dinner schedule and the weekend schedule.

Too Busy To Type

I am just not motivated this week.

Things I have to do:
  • Sort through the three boxes in the corner of my dining room - leftovers from the garage sale in August, stuff I need to try to sell.
  • Read and learn more about Filemaker Pro.
  • Play darts with the kid.
  • Read four library books.
  • Scrapbook the first six years of my precious child's life.
  • Sell the kids futon, hero clix, race track and matchbox cars (from when he was 5), and the approximately 150 action figures sitting in a big bin on the back porch (which he has also had since he was 5).
  • Prepare for the next two Sundays of volunteer events.
  • Create a monthly budget (since the paycheck budget I have been going on year is not working out).
  • Vacuum my car.
  • Water my plants (I can't remember the last time I did...I like to think that the drought we're in now is only making them stronger).
  • Clean my computer hard drive. We were trying to set up my sons Zune to save videos to it and in the process, we downloaded approximately 6 freeware programs that will do the converting Quick and Simple for us. Unfortunately, none of them were quick, and none were simple. After 90 minutes spent on this project from Satanville, I ended up paying for a product online that I knew worked, but I was trying to get for free. Afterwards my son said, "I've never seen you be so negative about something before!" I was prepared to stay up all night if I had to - I WAS going to make this work....i just wasn't really happy about it - but I was not going to give up. He paid (mostly his own money) over $200 for this "thing" that plays video and it had been six months with no videos and he was preparing to take a 3 hr plane ride - I was not going to give up. And I didn't....but I did end up paying $30.00, which isn't that much I guess.
  • Work out (ha).
  • Blog about my exciting and fascinating life.

Things I did this week instead of the above:

  • Read one book from the library.
  • Started a puzzle.
  • Answered about 17 emails about upcoming volunteer projects.
  • Planned a game night with my MeetinPortland friends.
  • Watched Heroes, Biggest Loser, Survivor and ER on tv (but without commercials, so the hour long shows are only 40 minutes).
    Went to the library.
  • Visited the new location for my volunteer projects to check on the room capacity.
  • Met with 6 people to play Phase 10 (and after graciously showing these people how to play, they had the nerve to beat me. Badly.)
  • Learned how to make bullets on my blog!

Event Planner Extraordinaire

Wow, it's been a long time since I've written. A LOT has happened since last we met....

The big conference came and went. It was VERY successful if you look at it from an outsider. The networking social on Friday night was great-the hotel had good food, a free chair massage for everyone, and people had a great time. I got my drinks comped all night and they also gave me a free room - so it was good for me! Saturday, things went smoothly, there were no upsets, nothing was forgotten, no one had any complaints-total success. We had about 92% attendance (from who was registered) and only one vendor didn't make it (but we knew about it the week before-family illness). The ENTIRE day I received compliments about how great it was. It was our first annual meeting of this type and I think people were a bit unsure as to how it would come out, but --it turned out GREAT. Many people told me that I should consider a wedding or event planner as a career.. I felt good about it, knowing that 85% of pulling that conference together was on my shoulders.

On the inside tip, I felt like I was not connected to my co-workers who I'd been working closely with for the last 6 months on making this a success. Friday night setup was a disaster, I was frantically rushing about and they avoided me, because they "could see I was frustrated." And then when my frustration turned into anger, they didn't feel like they could talk to me at all-which is true. I didn't think they were there for me when I needed them, even though I said the words "I need help" and really, the sweat on my brow and the rushing about from one room to the next should have been a clue as well. I just felt abandoned in my time of need and as such, became very irritated. The job got done, things were successful, but I feel like I lost two friends. Was it worth it? No comment.

It certainly made me question my ability to lead a group of people, though I have been leading groups of people for the last 8 yrs in my volunteer work and never had anything come close to this incident. I spent the last week questioning my ability to be a project manager and reliving things that I could have done differently to make it run smoother.

It's a hard spot - they were my friends, and I just assumed they would be there. When they weren't, my human emotions took over and we weren't able to come together for the good of the project. Everything got done - I think it took longer than necessary and I think there was more stress than was needed - but everything got done. I am not here to make friends, right? I'm here to do my job.
That's my new attitude. I hate it....but I guess it's necessary.

AND THEN - I had this big volunteer project this weekend. I was deemed to be the one that Hands on felt would make the best project manager for this job, an honor of course, but I was quite nervous about it, especially after the problems with my conference-mates the week before. I think I was overly on edge about what I said to people and how I said it...which I guess is good, but it's frustrating as I'm pretty confident in my ability to lead a project. The volunteer project went well, though some issues arose that were out of my hands.

We were expecting 106 people from Comcast. We got 66. That's a big shortage of hands. And not only that...but I would guess we had about 10 kids under the age of 9. Ten kids under the age of nine means we had a daycare section at the project. Unfortunately, the "daycare" was the landscaping group. They could do the least amount of damage in spreading bark, however, it slows down the project infinitely. At some point, I let some of the kids come inside and paint a wall. One youngster, we'll call him Jimmy, was VERY ambitious. Everytime I turned around, he was off on his own agenda. Jimmy was like a gremlin that someone has consistently fed after midnight.

I said a lot of this:
Jimmy, wait for your mom.
Jimmy, where's your mom?
Jimmy, you can't paint yet.
Jimmy, you can't paint there.
Jimmy, you only need one brush at a time.
Jimmy, only paint in the middle of the wall.
Jimmy, don't go anywhere.
Jimmy, where's your mom?
Jimmy, wait for your mom.

Jimmy painted the floor, the walls we weren't painting, the outside of the paint can, other kids, and maybe a little bit of the wall we were painting. It wouldn't have been so tragic if his mom was more concerned, however, she just continued to paint her section and watched as we cleaned up his mess. I had to ask her to take little Jimmy home, that he had really done all he could do to help. Help set us back in time/manpower, that is.

We didn't finish all the projects I wanted to, but we did really well considering we were 38 people down and had the help of a 6 yr old named Jimmy.
And it helped me believe in my ability to manage a large group of people again, which was wonderful. I have already let Hands On know that I want to host a couple more projects at the school to get things finished for them - without children or gremlins.

Happy Friday!!

OMG OMG OMG OMG - the conference celebration starts TOMORROW!!!!

We have a networking social tomorrow after work. I am assisting the set-up of the conference in the afternoon and then I go straight to the hotel to help oversee the party. I'm there until 9:45 and then I get o enjoy a nice night at the hotel in my free room - thanks to my excellent bargaining skills - and then I'm up at 6:00 am to start all the fun at the conference. And hopefully home by 5:30pm!

A slightly long day..and the end of my event planning time for now...a bittersweet weekend.

I am approaching the eight-month mark of my new job. In some ways, it feels like AGES, and in some ways, it was just yesterday I worked in that "other department" where I was mistreated and undervalued. I feel like I went from the lowest of the low to a position very near the high of the high. It's not "perfect" - but it's REALLY good.

I was able to adjust my hours and I now catch a slightly-earlier bus which allows me to get home 30 minutes earlier. It's nice to be shave 30 minutes off my commute! I still get my 20 minutes to read on the bus each way, but I don't have to wait 20 minutes for the bus and I miss out on a large amount of rush-hour traffic.

So my crazy, busy weekend begins....and then next weekend--another crazy, busy weekend as we give a local elementary school an Extreme Makeover. Just me and 120 friends, five hours of physical labor, gallons and gallons of paint, tons of bushes and trees, and lots of energizing work. The fun never stops.

For My BFF

What to get a sweets-lover for her birthday?

As much chocolate as possible!

Coordinator Extraordinaire

For the last six months I have been working on coordinating a medical conference (the first annual) at work. Well, it's almost game time....the conference is in just 5 days!! I can't believe it.

The networking social is Friday night and the conference is all day Saturday.
I have been working my ass off on his conference, trying to make sure it's PERFECT. It's the first annual and some people weren't so certain it could be pulled together in a six month period of time---but we did it. There are three of us working on it: Amy, who has spelling issues and dismisses about 50% of my emails, and Sue, aka Little Peanut, who dissects every email making sure I triple-check every detail. They are awesome to work with.

It's been a FUN process...but it's about to come to an end. Hopefully with a success story at the end, because it's my intention that there will be no mishaps, no forgotten details, no "we should have done this!", nothing we didn't plan for. Maybe an impossible feat, considering they are clinical people, not admin, and my event planning experience was slightly different and MUCH smaller - but - we have put so much heart and passion into making this successful, that I think we have a good shot at near-perfection.

And then...then I have to do other duties at work. I would say I have been spending about 40% of each month since I started on planning this conference and I have LOVED every bit of it. Well, almost every bit. Dealing with the Parking Dept has been ridiculous- their reputation is not unwarranted!

I am going to miss my Conference Committee members and the fun (and TOTALLY productive!) meetings we have had once a week.

The week after the big conference is Comcast Cares Day - I am the Project Manager at a local elementary school where 100 Comcast employees, and four Project Leaders and hopefully 2 teens, will volunteer to spend 4 hrs doing an Extreme Makeover type event, painting the school and redoing their landscaping. It's a big deal and I'm not sure why they chose me to be Project Manager...maybe my reputation is not unwarranted! :)

It will be fun - hard work and an exhausting day, but fun and very productive.

And then I have nothing big planned...but I'm sure I'll find something somehow.

Endless Shrimp at Red Lobster

What a total scam this thing is!

I told the teen we could go to Red Lobster for the Endless Shrimp special, as he LOVES shrimp and everyone has to splurge sometime and he's a GOOD kid. He deserves to eat endless shrimp. So he didn't eat all morning and we headed over there about 4pm, ready to experience something as wonderful as Disneyland-plates and plates of little shrimp, all curled up, still in their natural state, just without their skin...or their ability to breathe, swimming in a garlic butter sauce of some sort.

It started out really well. He selected two of the five choices, received his 20 shrimp and then we waited five minutes for the waitress to come back and ask what type he wanted for his next serving. This is where it started going downhill.

We were under the impression that we could get two new plates at a time. We talked about it with Lizzie the Waitress when we were getting ready to order. She told us that we can pick two to start and then the next two can be different choices. So then when Lizzie comes back, the kid orders two more. Lizzie leaves, he's happy, we're chit-chatting, life is grand.

Until Lizzie returns to say that she can only enter one order at a time, which would we prefer.

Hmm...are you sure Lizzie? Right, go check with someone.

Five more minutes goes by....the kid has now started eating my soup while he waits.
Lizzie returns to say, yeah, it has to be one plate at a time.

Really Lizzie? Can you order them back to back for us then? Okay great, thanks.
TEN minutes later (now it's been 15 minutes since he finished his first plate), the next plate of TEN shrimp arrive.
Ten shrimp will last a 14-yr old teenager who loves shrimp approximately 96 seconds.

And then.....we must wait ten more minutes for Lizzie.

Really Lizzie....is this a joke??

My actual words to her were "I don't think this endless shrimp is going to work out for us." As if I was breaking up with her....it's not me, it's you, Lizzie.

After explaining to her that at the rate we are going it will take approximately 3.5 hrs for him to fill up with shrimp, I told her that yes, I would like her to go talk to her manager. She returned to explain that the endless shrimp is set up that way and that she can special order two dishes at a time for us if I'd like. I again explained the 96 second rule and that if we had two, it would still be approximately 5 minutes to eat 20 shrimp and THEN we have to wait until she has a chance to come back to us and THEN we have to wait for our order to go through the kitchen and THEN wait for it to be brought to our table. So now the deal on the table is 2 plates of shrimp every 15-20 minutes.

This Endless Shrimp thing would be great under the following circumstances:
A) You like to have a series of 15 minute breaks in the middle of your meal.
B) You don't like shrimp much and can only eat it in small quantities.
C) You have nothing at all to do all day and you're interested in grazing on your meal, not eating it.
D) You are not really hungry and have money to waste.

We are none of the above, and as such, asked to speak to her manager (to which the kid said I was the angry mother yelling at the principal).

Our ever-so-friendly manager John came to the table and said his name two times in 1 minute and then asked me what was wrong, as if Lizzie hadn't spoken to him five minutes earlier....

I repeated the whole thing and let him know that I am not interested in paying for the cost of Endless Shrimp if it means I have to wait 15 minutes between plates. John listened intently and sympathetically and offered me NOTHING to make me happy so I continued to talk and ended with, I will pay for what he's eaten and we will just go.
John's response was to say his name again and go get our bill and then say his name again and thank us for coming.

Where is the managerial response of "let me make it up to you" or "how can i fix this to make your visit a success" or "let me comp your meal for you, sorry about the misunderstanding."??? John said NOTHING like that.

He actually charged us for every single bite my son ingested..which came out to $2 off the price of Endless Shrimp. Wonderful. Great lesson in how to be an incompetent manager.

Just another lesson in how I have expectations of people that are not unrealistic, yet are not fulfilled.

I EXPECT that the manager will not let a customer leave a restaurant feeling as if they never want to come back to this place.
I EXPECT that if someone tells me something that turns out to be wrong and we all find out later-that she will try hard to make sure that person is happy. Right, Lizzie??? Why didn't you come back every 2 minutes and take another order of 10 shrimp??
I EXPECT that an advertisement that says something is endless will be made non-stop in the kitchen so that when an order is placed, it is ready nearly immediately....the Olive Garden does it with pasta-on the endless pasta days, you never have an empty pasta bowl. It's not a hard concept.

sigh....I hate Red Lobster. Add them to the list of places we are boycotting.

Carpe Diem!

Did I seize the day today?
I think so...
I accomplished a lot at work. I actually took a lunch and saved myself the $5.50 I would have spent in the cafeteria.

I climbed the stairs on both my breaks in my new plan to lose 30 lbs in the slowest way possible.

I came home and sat on the back porch with the cat and a book and enjoyed the cool breeze on a quiet evening before the kid got home from a friends house.

I beat the kid for the third night in a row playing Phase 10.

Helped the boy with homework, paid all my bills online, did the dishes, took a nice relaxing shower and now I'm off to bed with a book. Just a nice relaxing day.

And even better--tomorrow is wrap day at work. The best day of the week.

...now if only I knew where my library card was so I could renew my books before they are late. Again.
However----even the cost of 4 late books at 15cents a day (or whatever it is) - is a GREAT deal considering how many books I borrow from them a year.
I love my library. I wish my library number was about 11 numbers shorter so I could remember it!
Seriously, is someone out there with the library card #1043? No...probably not. Can't we reset the library cards? My number is literally 16 digits (at least). It might be 24. Once I find my card, I'll find out.

And So It Begins

My son is in HIGH SCHOOL!!!!
Remember the other day when he was a baby??

And then a toddler...

And then a youth....(he's the one on the left)

And then a young man...

And now....sigh...he's taller than my mom.

ha---just kidding! He's been taller than her for YEARS!!! BUT he IS taller than me now. But just a *little* bit.

Back to the Real World

School starts this week!!!
We went to Washington to visit the family while we had a chance, as next month our weekends are pretty full.

Here was our guest of honor this weekend:

My brother in law, Jason, flew back to visit for the weekend. He's living apart from his family, stuck in a crappy town on the east coast for some military thing-school maybe? reassignment? I think I was probably told at some point...all I know is that he's on the east coast for almost a year. All by himself. Sad and lonely. Poor Jason.

So he flew back to visit and we had a little reunion party, with my mom and dad, the kid and I, Jasons mom, sister, sister-in-law, and three kids from the two sisters. It was a nice full house. We had a barbecue at Jen & Jay's house and then played games - which is what we do. I love it. Here's a couple shots from my spot at the games table:

This little darling:
took photos for me. She's quite good.
Here's her photos:

Jen & Candace

The only shot she could get of Tyler, who was not cooperating.

And a self-portrait:

Here I Am!

But I'm leaving for a couple days. We're off to visit the family - I'll post later this weekend.

Volunteer...For Your Family

The community I live in apparently picks a volunteer of the year.

I am certainly not of the opinion that I am the volunteer of the year, esp in my community. I only dedicate about 6 hrs a year directly within the suburb where I live, the greater amount of hrs is in the greater Portland area or nationwide, or now lately, worldwide (yay for helping Africa!).

For some reason, I am irked by the volunteer of the year this year. I'm sure she's a REALLY nice lady. She received the award for the amount of time she has volunteered at her child's school. She's a mom who doesn't work and spends time helping out in her child's classroom. Which I believe is a GREAT thing to do. When my beloved offspring was young and I was in college (self-supported, working two jobs mind you), I volunteered in his Montessori and then in his Kindergarten and 1st grade classes. It was great.

HOWEVER.....I was volunteering in my sons class/school. I LOVED volunteering there and felt great about it, however, it did somewhat serve my needs as well. I was a very active figure in his classroom. I was able to know all the kids, know his teachers, as well as others in the school, I got to spend time with him while he was in school. It was good to be a part of his world at school. It wasn't just volunteering to volunteer and do some good in the world. I wanted to do some good in my son's world. Volunteering-yes. For a good cause-absolutely! Completely altruistic-not really....it was because of MY son that I was there. I wouldn't have helped out at that school if I didn't have a child in it somewhere. And I have to wonder if this woman will continue to volunteer at the elementary school when her son moves on to middle school. I would venture to guess that she will then be spending many volunteer hours in the middle school.

And so when I heard that the Volunteer of the Year was a mother who volunteers in her child's school, I was a bit disheartened. Not because I felt that she was not worthy of an award or because I am a volunteer snob.....but because I KNOW there are some REALLY great things going on in my community that are powered by the many, many hours put in by volunteers who have no family ties to the organization they are helping.

There's a woman who donated food to the local food bank during a holiday season and she heard about how people who come there are sometimes in great need of other very basic commodities that we take for granted, such as soap and shampoo and womanly things that are necessities and can be costly. So this wonderful woman convinced her family members to each donate a few dollars (her husband, kids and a few relatives) each week and now they purchase such things (on sale to get the best deals) and make care baskets for people who visit the food bank. It's hard to find a job when you're destitute, hungry, (most likely) depressed AND your hair hasn't been washed lately. It's the little things in life that can really help out. Providing just a small bottle of shampoo to 30 families a week (or however many she provides) is a huge contribution to our community.

My library - which I obviously have strong feelings about - has countless volunteers. There is a 90-year old woman who has volunteered there weekly for the last X-amount of years. She's 90 - and she still manages to volunteer her time to help keep our library running so that people can read?? I love her.
I'm sure there are a ton of volunteer firefighters or people who help out at the local gov't agencies.

I'm really REALLY glad that we have some great parents who are fortunate enough to have the time to volunteer in our local schools. I have to actually take vacation leave from work to get the chance to do something with my sons school. I don't have a flexible schedule and I'm not a stay-at-home mom. I'm slightly, but just slightly, envious of the stay-at-home moms who have the luxury of their freedom. (and NO, I am not saying that stay-at-home moms do not work--just that they have a bit more freedom than those of us who have to clock in somewhere in order to provide food and housing for our family).

I'm not devaluing the idea of volunteering in your child's elementary school. I just don't think that the people who volunteer only for their child's' school are solely doing it for the good of the school and without some fulfillment of their own desire to be as active as possible in their child's life. And maybe I'm just a volunteer snob.
A friend of mine took care of his elderly mother for a year before she passed away. He took her places every other weekend and spent a lot of time visiting he in the nursing home. He considered that volunteering. He was driving her and her elderly friends to the beach, to the zoo, to the drive-through safari park...and not getting paid. It was a form of work that he was not getting paid for and, as such, he felt he was volunteering. I think that this is somewhat up there with helping in your child's classroom. It's a familial obligation.
And I might be a snob.


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